Santorini, or Thera, is a tiny Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Its crescent shape almost surrounds the crater (caldera) of an ancient volcano. Santorini and its islets are pieces broken off a volcano's rim, forming a multicolored circle around a seemingly bottomless blue lagoon. The cliff-faced island is one of the most spectacular sights in the world, and entering the bay of Santorini by boat is one of the most memorable travel experiences.The Santorini sunsets, considered the best in the world, add to the unsurpassed magic of the island. They are best viewed from the caldera with the stunning background of the volcano and the neighboring islands and over the miles of black and red sand or pebbled beaches.
The ancient Thera, with its extensive remains of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine towns is spectacularly situated atop a high promontory and overlooks black lava beaches. Two main towns, Fira and Oia, perched at the summit of the caldera, are visible as you approach by ship, their whitewashed houses resembling a dusting of new snow on the mountaintop. Akrotiri is Santorini's main archaeological wonder: a town destroyed by the volcano eruption, but miraculously preserved under layers of lava.
The present-day crescent shape of the island is a consequence of the activity of the volcano in prehistoric times. The island itself owes its very existence to the volcano. The earliest known eruption of the volcano occured around 1600 BCE, when tons of magma, pumice, and ash were thrown high above the island. The eruption created tidal waves which destroyed the Minoan civilization on the nearby island of Crete. Pumice deposits also buried one of the most prosperous pre-historic settlements of that period. To this day, some scholars speculate that this destruction gave birth to the myth of the lost continent of Atlantis. Today, the volcano doesn't completely rest, and mild activity of the volcano continues into the present with the most recent eruption occurring in the 1950s.
The island is rich in history and steeped in myth. Once famous for its seafaring captains and thriving trade with Russia, England, France, Italy and even further, it was named by the Venetians in reference to Saint Irene. During its 4,000 years' history, great poets have sung Santorini's praises, artists attempted to capture its beauty and the eternal rock continues to stand, strong and majestic, rising proudly from the sea and guarding the secrets of Atlantis.